The Texas church shooter had family connections to the church where he killed at least 26 on Sunday in what is now the worst mass shooting in the state’s history.
Wilson County Sheriff Joe Tackett told the Today show Monday morning that Devin Patrick Kelley’s ex in-laws attended the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, where he unleashed a firestorm of bullets during Sunday morning service.
It was previously reported that Kelley’s wife Danielle was a former teacher at the school, and that her mother Michelle was a parishoner.
But the sheriff’s revelation that it was his ex in-laws who attended the church indicates that he and Danielle may have had a falling out.
Sheriff Tackett said the family was not at the church at the time of the shooting, but spoke to investigators yesterday after the massacre.
As of Monday, Danielle’s Facebook profile still listed her relationship status as ‘married’ and photos on the account show her with two young kids.
Marriage records show the two tied the knot in Comal County, Texas on April 4, 2014, when Kelley was 23 and his bride was 19.
Divorce records show he was also married once before to a Tessa K Kelley. Kelley and his other wife divorced in 2012 – the same year that he was court-martialed for domestic violence.
Air Force spokeswoman Ann Stefanek said Kelley was court-martialed on one count of assault on his spouse and another count of assault on their child. He was sentenced to 12 months’ confinement, a reduction in rank and was discharged for bad conduct two years later.
Stefanek said Kelley served in Logistics Readiness at Holloman Air Force Base in New Mexico from 2010 until his discharge.
Wilson County Sheriff Joe Tackett said on Monday that Devin Kelley’s (right) ex in-laws attended the Texas church he attacked on Sunday. It was previously reported that his wife Danielle’s (left) family were parishioners at the church. The sheriff’s new statement indicates that Kelley and his wife may have broken up
Kelley walked into the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs, dressed in black, tactical gear with a ballistics belt and an assault rifle, and began shooting, according to local law enforcement sources.
The attack only stopped when Kelley, of New Braunfels, a suburb of San Antonio, was confronted by local hero Stephen Willeford, 55, who shot him through a gap in his body armor as the gunman tried to leave the church. Kelley fled in his car, lost control in his vehicle and was found dead inside.
At least 26 people were killed in the shooting, but the death toll is expected to climb, authorities say. Victims include a two-year-old girl and the 14-year-old adopted daughter of the pastor.
Eight members of one family, including a eight-months-pregnant mother and three of her children were killed, a community leader and relative told CNN , without revealing their identities. The Connally Memorial Medical Center said ‘multiple’ victims are being treated.
Last night, San Antonio police raided Kelley’s home with K9 and bomb squad units, along with agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives unit and FBI.
Horrific new details of the attack have started to emerge with police saying there was likely ‘no way’ for congregants to escape. Wilson County Sheriff Joe D. Tackitt Jr. said: ‘He (Kelley) just walked down the center aisle, turned around and my understanding was shooting on his way back out. It’s unbelievable to see children, men and women, laying there. Defenseless people.’
Devin Patrick Kelley (pictured left, and in a mugshot from a previous crime) walked into the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs, dressed in full combat gear, and began shooting, according to local law enforcement sources
The shooting happened at the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs (pictured), where around 50 people usually attend service, according to local reports
Investigators work at the scene of a deadly shooting at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, Sunday
Texas state troopers erect a barricade to control traffic near the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs after the fatal shooting
A victim is evacuated from the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs after the massacre on Sunday afternoon
Kelley was a US Air Force veteran and former Bible studies teacher but his Facebook page, which has been deleted by the FBI, reveals he had a worrying fascination with weaponry.
He’d recently shared a photo of an AR-15 style gun on Facebook with the caption: ‘She’s a bad b***h.’
The 26-year-old was married to Danielle Shields, and they appear to have a child together. She was previously a teacher at the First Baptist Church.
Kelley lived at his parents’ home with his wife and child and neighbor Mark Moravitz told ABC News he would sometimes hear gunshots coming from near that house late at night.
The gunman’s ex-mother-in-law, Michelle Shields, also appears to have been a parishioner at the church and was friends on social media with the pastor’s wife.
It is not clear whether they were at the church at the time of the shooting.
A LinkedIn account which appears to be Kelley’s states that he joined the US Air Force after graduating New Braunfels High School in 2009. The Pentagon confirmed he was an airman ‘at one point,’ but did not release further details.
He worked in logistics and supply in the Air Force until he was kicked out for assaulting his wife and their child. Kelley was court-martialled for two counts of assaulting his spouse and kid, and received 12 months ‘confinement’ and a dishonorable discharge in 2014, CBS reported.
Mourning: Local residents embrace during a candlelight vigil for victims of a mass shooting in a church in Sutherland Springs, Texas
Grief: Hundreds gathered to pay respect to those killed in the massacre. Many held candles aloft as they staged the moving vigil
Prayers: A man raises his right hand and bows his head along with others who gathered to pay respect to those killed in the mass shooting
Kelley then volunteered as a teacher for Bible studies at Kingsville First Baptist Church, according to his LinkedIn which shows him posing which a young child. He was reportedly employed by Schlitterbahn Waterpark and Resort in New Braunfels and licensed by the Texas Department of Public Safety as a security guard at the time of the shooting.
Former classmates described him as ‘creepy’, ‘crazy’ and an ‘outcast’ who had recently started preaching about atheism and picking fights on social media. However, local law enforcement say he had a relatively clean criminal record, with just a traffic offenses in recent years.
Police are now investigating the possibility that Kelley was in a local militia group.
What we know about the shooter
- Named as Devin Patrick Kelley, 26-year-old white male, of New Braunfels, a suburb of San Antonio,
- Was found dead in a crashed car after a brief chase following the shooting
- Was dressed in all black, tactical gear with a ballistics belt and multiple weapons in his car
- Fired outside the church, then went into the church and continued to fire
- Resident near the church intervened, and knocked the gun out of Kelley’s hands, then chased him in his car
- Kelley showed off an AR-15 rifle on Facebook recently
- Served in the military in ‘cargo, demand and supply and distribution’ but was dishonorably discharged
- Was married and believed to have taught a Bible studies at Kingsville First Baptist Church
The first of Kelley’s 26 victims have been identified in the wake of the shooting. They include Annabelle Pomeroy, whose father – First Baptist Church Pastor Frank Pomeroy – had been out of town during the attack. The grieving dad told ABC he’s lost ‘one beautiful girl, and a ‘special child.’
More than 20 people have been killed inside a Texas church – including a two-year-old child – after a gunman dressed in full combat gear opened fire during the morning service before cops shot him dead. First Baptist Church Pastor Frank Pomeroy’s (right with his wife Sherri) 14-year-old adopted daughter, Annabelle (left), is among the dead
Sunday school teacher Karla Holcolmbe and her husband Bryan also died in the rampage, their family confirmed. A local resident says their pregnant daughter-in-law was also killed
Crystal Holcombe (left) was married to Bryan and Karla Holcombe’s son John (right) and had been at church with her inlaws when she was shot dead
Mother-of-four, Joann Ward (pictured), is said to have died in the wake of the shooting, according to her family
Sisters six-year-old Brooke (left) and eight-year-old Emily Garza (pictured, right, sitting on the right, next to her sister Rihanna) were killed in the shooting according to her family. Nine-year-old Rihanna (sitting next to Emily had her glasses shot off her face but survived
Bryan Holcombe had been standing in for Frank Pomeroy as pastor when Kelley opened fire. Witnesses say he was the first victim to be struck by the shooter’s gunfire.
‘Bryan was filling in,’ the witness, who did not want to be named, told DailyMail.com. ‘He was walking up to the pulpit when he was shot in the back.
‘He was an awesome Christian,’ they added.
He was killed, alongside his wife of 25 years, Sunday school teacher Karla Holcombe, as well as their daughter-in-law Crystal, a mom-of-five who was eight-months-pregnant, local residents reported. There are reports that three of Crystal’s children were also killed.
‘The family is just devastated,’ the witness added.
The couple ran a canvas repair shop before retiring and had attended the church for 25 years.
‘My father was a good man and he loved to preach. He had a good heart. They knew where they were going. There’s peace in that,’ their son Scott Holcombe told the Herald-Tribune.
Mother-of-four Joann Ward and three of her children were also shot. Family have since told the Dallas News that Joann and two of her daughters, six-year-old Brooke and eight-year-old Emily have died.
Kelley, who was reportedly married, had recently posted a photo of an AR-15 style gun on his Facebook page with the caption: ‘She’s a bad b***h’
Kelley, (pictured in his yearbook photo, left and right, as a teenager) 26, of New Braunfels, a suburb of San Antonio, fled in his SUV but crashed near county lines
Police have not yet released a motive for why Kelley, (pictured recently) opened fire at the church
Ward’s five-year-old stepson Ryland, who was shot four times, is still in hospital after undergoing emergency surgery. The mom’s eldest daughter Rihanna, nine, had the glasses shot off her face but escaped injury by hiding under a pew as shots rang out.
Footage from Ksat showed families weeping as they waited to discover if relatives were victims.
Authorities say that Kelley had turned up ready for combat on Sunday morning.
The gunman was spotted moments before the shooting, at around 11.20am, at a Valero gas station, ‘dressed in all black, tactical gear, wearing a ballistics belt’.
In a press conference, Texas Department of Public Safety Regional Director Freeman Martin, said Kelley had then ‘crossed the street to the church, exited his vehicle and began firing on the church. He moved to the right side of the church and continued to fire, and entered the church and continued to fire.’
But as he left the church, Willeford risked his life to stop him.
‘A local resident grabbed his rifle and engaged the suspect,’ Martin said. ‘The suspect dropped his rifle, which was a Ruger assault type rifle, and fled from the church. A local citizen pursued the subject at that time.’
Willeford, who has no military experience, didn’t hesitate when came face to face with Kelley, and shot him in between Kelley’s body armor, hitting him in his side.
Texas gunman was a ‘creepy outcast’ who ‘preached his atheism’ online before killing 26
Former classmates say Devin Patrick Kelley, 26, who stormed First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs in Texas and opened fire on Sunday, was ‘creepy’, ‘crazy’ and ‘weird’.
Patrick Boyce, who attended New Braunfels High School with the killer, told DailyMail.com: ‘He had a kid or two, fairly normal, but kinda quiet and lately seemed depressed.
‘He was the first atheist I met. He went Air Force after high school, got discharged but I don’t know why.
‘I was just shocked [to hear the news]. Still haven’t quite processed how he could have done that.’
Nina Rose Nava, who went to school with the gunman, wrote on Facebook: ‘In (sic) in complete shock! I legit just deleted him off my fb cause I couldn’t stand his post.
‘He was always talking about how people who believe in God we’re stupid and trying to preach his atheism’
Christopher Leo Longoria replied: ‘I removed him off FB for those same reasons! He was being super nagtive (sic) all the timd (sic).’
Michael Goff added: ‘He was weird but never that damn weird, always posting his atheist sh** like Nina wrote, but damn he always posted pics of him and his baby – crazy.’
Nava added to DailyMail.com: ‘I went to school with him. We had a few conversations here and there. It’s not something I expected from him.
‘He was an outcast but not a loner. He was popular among other outcast. I haven’t spoke to him since high school.’
Another former classmate, who asked to remain anonymous, told DailyMail.com: ‘I grew up going to school with him… Always creeped me out and was different.’
She said she moved away from the area while she was in junior high and lost touch with a lot of people.
However, Kelley recently commented on one of her Facebook posts.
‘I said I just want to move back to Texas,’ she said. ‘And he said something along the lines of “Texas isn’t any better”. Pretty much said he didn’t like Texas.
‘I think he had one kid, she/he is still a baby. He was married but I don’t know to who. It’s crazy to think I grew up with him. Same town. Same school. Same classes.
‘He was different in school and creeped me out but never would I have thought he would do such a horrific thing.’
A former friend wrote on Facebook: ‘It’s scary to know this psychopath has been in my house. I can’t believe I was friends with this guy and I literally would stay the night at his place when we were kids.’
He added: ‘I ended up distancing myself from him in high school after he got in an argument with me in school and he tried punching me several times. Dude was crazy man.’
Cord Eubank Brown wrote on social media: ‘I cannot believe this. I went to high school with this maniac.
‘There were people I knew who stayed away from this guy for many reasons, which all make sense now. He just requested me on facebook recently.’
The 26-year-old had dropped his Ruger assault rifle and climbed in an SUV to flee the scene.
Another local resident, Johnnie Langendorff, had stopped at the gas station across the street to get breakfast when he noticed the gun fight at the church.
He says he saw Kelley leave the church as he was being pursued by Willeford.
When Kelley took off in his car, he says Willeford came over to him, told him what was going on and said that they needed to chase after him.
Langendorff agreed, and the two started speeding at 95mph to catch up to the suspect. All the while, Lagendorff was on the phone to dispatch, letting officers know their location.
As they approached a sharp curve in the road, near the 307 and 539, in Guadalupe County, he said Kelley appeared to lose control and his car swerved off the road.
‘It’s like he just gave up. He just kind of went off in the ditch, hit a hay bale from what I could see and then he just never moved after that. He didn’t get out. He didn’t try anything. Nothing.
‘When he hit the ditch the gentleman that was with me got out, rested his rifle on my hood and kept it aimed at him – telling him to “Get out, get out”. There was no movement there was none that. They guy didn’t put up a fight or anything like that
‘Once police showed up they moved me and the gentleman back and then everybody showed up and they took action,’ Lagendorff said.
Cops found Kelley dead inside, along with multiple weapons and possible explosives. It’s still unclear how he died.
Wilson County Commissioner Albert Gamez Jr said that at least 27 people have been killed in the shooting, but the death toll is expected to climb
Law enforcement officials stand next to a covered body at the scene of the fatal shooting
Martin said that law enforcement gave tracked down the suspect, who went off the road and crashed near county lines. Pictured is the suspect’s car which was found with multiple weapons inside it
Stephen Willeford, 55, (left) and Johnnie Langendorff (right) have been praised as heroes after they were able to stop Texas gunman Devin Kelley’s rampage
Langendorff, who pursued the suspect, kissed his girlfriend as he was picked up from the scene where the suspect died near the intersection of FM 539 and Sandy Elm Road in Guadalupe County
Footage from the scene shows Johnnie Langendorff’s truck, circled, still on the road. He said after Kelley swerved off the road, he’d put his vehicle in park while the neighbor got his gun ready
‘We are not sure if it was self inflicted or if he was shot by a local resident,’ said Texas Department of Public Safety Regional Director Freeman Martin.
San Antonio police also raided Kelley’s home on Sunday evening, with K9 and bomb squad units, along with agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives unit and FBI.
Martin said that 23 found dead inside the church, and another two bodies were recovered from outside the building. Another person, who was taken to hospital, died while receiving treatment.
The first responders on the scene were from local churches who began receiving texts from family and friends about the shooting.
Injuries range from minor to very severe, while victims were aged from five-years-old to 72.
It’s not yet clear how many were in church at the time of the shooting but Martin said some escaped unhurt.
First Baptist Church Pastor Frank Pomeroy told ABC that his 14-year-old adopted daughter is among the 26 dead. She ‘was one very beautiful, special child,’ the pastor said. His wife, Sherri Pomeroy, said her husband was out of town at the time of the shooting.
Amanda Mosel’s 13-year-old goddaughter was gunned down in the shooting. With tears in her eyes, the 34-year-old stood outside the Sutherland Springs Community Building where citizens gathered following the shooting.
She said she was sad she skipped church this morning, but she normally attends that sermon. ‘It’s a small, tight-knit church,’ she said.
A young man standing outside the Brooke Army Medical Center told MySA.com that he had been wounded in the shooting and that this father had been killed. His mother was in another hospital.
Many of the dead remained inside the small rural church Sunday evening, as crime scene investigators worked to reconstruct the scene.
‘My heart is broken,’ Gamez said. ‘We never think where it can happen, and it does happen. It doesn’t matter where you’re at. In a small community, real quiet and everything, and look at this, what can happen.’
At least 24 others were injured in the horrific shooting, including four kids from the same family.
Local residents and family members of the victims gathered for a candlelight vigil outside the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs on Sunday evening
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott participates in a candlelight vigil for the victims of a fatal shooting at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Sunday
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott embraces a woman during a candlelight vigil held for the victims of a fatal shooting at the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott consoles Ann Montgomery, a Sunday school teacher at First Baptist Church, during a candlelight vigil
Mourners attend a candle light vigil after a mass shooting at the First Baptist Church after the massacre
Annabell Pomeroy, (left) the 14-year-old daughter of the church pastor, was the first victim identified in Sunday’s shooting. Five-year-old Ryland Ward, (right) the stepson of feared-dead mother-of-four Joann Ward, was shot four times and is in surgery
It is believed to have been the worst shooting at a place of worship in American history.
Authorities declined to officially name any of the deceased victims on Sunday evening, as they worked to secure the crime scene and notify victims’ families.
‘We don’t know names of any of the victims at this time because we’re still trying to work the crime scene,’ said Wilson County Sheriff Joe Tackitt.
Residents of the community gathered for an emotional candlelight vigil on Sunday night as the names of the victims began to emerge.
‘I’ve known her since she was about eight years old,’ resident Gloria Rodriguez Ximenez told CNN of the 14-year-old pastor’s daughter who died.
Carrie Matula (left) embraces a woman after a fatal shooting at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, on Sunday. Matula said she heard the shooting from the gas station where she works a block away
Photos show families tearfully praying outside their community building as they wait to see if their family and friends are safe
People gather near First Baptist Church following a shooting on November 5, 2017 in Sutherland Springs, Texas
‘There’s no words to describe how wonderful people they are – Christian. It’s just a small Christian town, everybody knows each other, everybody supports each other,’ she said.
A woman wrote on Facebook that she saw the man flee the scene in his vehicle before crashing it not far from her daughter’s house.
San Antonio Police Department reportedly sent in their bomb squad to investigate an SUV abandoned in Guadalupe County, near Sutherland Springs, which is believed to have belonged to the shooter, News 4 San Antonio reports.
Police could not give an exact number of victims shot in the attack, but witnesses said they heard as many as 20 shots fired. It appears that almost everyone in the church during the service was shot.
Dana Fletcher, who owns a store in Sutherland Springs, told CNN: ‘It’s just awful…there were emergency responders everywhere.’
Neighbors in the area said they may have heard the shooter reload multiple times. Another witness at the scene said a two-year-old was also shot in the attack.
President Donald Trump sent his condolences to the Sutherland Springs community as he continues to monitor the situation from Japan
First Lady Melania Trump also shared this tweet following the shooting. ‘Our hearts are with #Texas’
Ivanka Trump also tweeted after learning about the tragic shooting
Texas Sen Ted Cruz tweeted: ‘Keeping all harmed in Sutherland Springs in our prayers and grateful for our brave first responders on the scene’
Texas Governor Greg Abbott released a statement following the shooting. ‘While the details of this horrific act are still under investigation, Cecilia and I want to send our sincerest thoughts and prayers to all those who have been affected by this evil act,’ he wrote and tweeted
Chelsea Clinton also sent her condolences to the families affected by the tragic shooting
Sutherland Springs is a rural community in Wilson County, Texas, that’s made up of about 400 people. It’s located about 30 miles southeast of San Antonio. There are 11 hotels in the area, and there used to be a 52-floor facility, but it closed in 1923.
Texas Congressman Vicente Gonzalez told MSNBC that officials said they ‘won’t have final numbers until probably a few more hours’.
He said that based on what he knew, he did not believe the incident was related to terrorism, but ‘was some kind of other incident that has to do with the church or the community’.
Carrie Matula, who works at a gas station near the church, told MSNBC that she heard ‘semiautomatic gunfire’ and looked to see what was going on.
‘I never thought it would happen here,’ Matula said. ‘This is something that happens in a big city. I would never have thought this would have taken place here. It’s just too tight a community. It doesn’t make sense.’
Sutherland Springs is a community of about 400 people 30 miles southeast of San Antonio. Some residents fear that the gunman is someone they know becuase their community is so small
The shooter was killed after the brief foot chase into Guadalupe County, according Guadalupe County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Robert Murphy. But it’s still unclear if the gunman shot himself or was taken down by authorities
Law enforcement officers gather in front of the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs
Witnesses said a man ‘in full gear’ walked inside the church (pictured) and opened fire just before 11.30am
President Donald Trump, who is visiting Japan, sent his condolences to the Sutherland Springs community.
‘Victims and their families were in their sacred place of worship. We cannot put into words the pain and grief we all feel,’ he said in a televised statement from Japan, urging everyone to ‘stand strong, oh so strong.’
‘In dark times such as these, Americans do we what do best and we pull together. We lock hands and we joins arms. Through the tears and through the sadness we stand strong.’
He went on to say that the worst mass shooting in Texas history is a ‘mental health problem at the highest level’.
Speaking at an event with the Japanese prime minister in Tokyo on Monday, Trump described the gunman as a ‘very deranged individual.’
Texas Governor Greg Abbott released a statement following the shooting.
‘While the details of this horrific act are still under investigation, Cecilia and I want to send our sincerest thoughts and prayers to all those who have been affected by this evil act.
‘I want to thank law enforcement for their response and ask that all Texans pray for the Sutherland Springs community during this time of mourning and loss.’
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said in a statement: ‘The thoughts and prayers of all Texans are with the people of Sutherland Springs as tragic reports come out of First Baptist Church.’
‘Please join Angela and me as we pray for those impacted by this horrific shooting,’ Paxton said.
Police (pictured) could not give an exact number of victims shot in the attack, but witnesses said as many as 20 shots were fired
The shooting took place at the churchl, which is located about 30 miles from San Antonio. Sutherland Springs is a community of about 400 people
Texas Sen Ted Cruz tweeted: ‘Keeping all harmed in Sutherland Springs in our prayers and grateful for our brave first responders on the scene.’
‘It’s something we all say does not happen in small communities, although we found out today it does,’ said Joe Tackitt, the sheriff of Wilson County, which includes Sutherland Springs, in a press conference.
Photos show families tearfully praying outside their community building as they wait to see if their family and friends are safe.
There were at least six helicopters called in to transport victims to the hospital.
Megan Posey, a spokeswoman for Connally Memorial Medical Center, which is in Floresville and about 10 miles from the church, said ‘multiple’ victims were being treated for gunshot wounds.
She declined to give a specific number but said it was less than a dozen. Some victims were taken by medical helicopter to the Brooke Army Medical Center.
The University Health System also said in a tweet that their ‘trauma team is caring for nine of the patients from the Sutherland Springs shooting, 4 children, 5 adults, + 1 more patient on the way’.
Special agents from ATF’s Houston Field Division, San Antonio Field Office were also on the scene along with the FBI.
Special agents from ATF’s Houston Field Division, San Antonio Field Office are on the scene along with the FBI
There were at least six helicopters (pictured) called in to transport victims to the hospital
First responders were seen rushing victims toward the helicopters that were called in to transport them to local hospitals